Topic Maps Go Open Source

XTM Topic Maps (ISO 13250) is a Semantic Web-related technology using XML to describe knowledge structures. A number of start-up companies in Europe and the US in the early 2000s initiated programmes to develop applications supporting the creation and navigation of Topic Maps. Of them, only Ontopia in Norway seems to have survived in any commercial sense, with its Ontopia Knowledge Suite (OKS) incorporating the Omnigator Topic Map navigator and Ontopoly Topic Map editor. Despite a committed cadre of enthusiasts across the globe (including myself), Topic Maps as a knowledge organization technology proved difficult to promote outside of Norway. As a result, Ontopia was acquired by Norwegian IT consultancy Bouvet ASA in March 2007.

Bouvet themselves have now acknowledged that Topic Maps does not appear to be a technology with any conventional commercial potential. They have therefore announced that the Ontopia suite of Topic Maps applications is to be made open-source. In my view, this is the best decision they could have made. Topics Maps is an XML mark-up standard with more readily understandable semantics and far greater flexibility for describing the widest variety of knowledge structures than is RDF, as adopted by the Semantic Web developers.

Visit the Ontopia site for further information.

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5 Responses to Topic Maps Go Open Source

  1. We did not sell Ontopia because of commercial difficulties. Ontopia’s problems were internal in nature, mostly to do with management and ownership issues. The company was definitely still viable when we sold it.

    Further, there are quite a few companies selling Topic Maps-based solutions. A number of these use Ontopia, others use the tools from NetworkedPlanet, and some use open source tools. So there is no lack of companies working commercial with the technology.

    > Bouvet themselves have now acknowledged that Topic Maps
    > does not appear to be a technology with any conventional
    > commercial potential.

    This is not true. Bouvet has not acknowledged any such thing. (Did you mean to write “appear to have”?)

    Bouvet is open sourcing the software because we have found that for a consulting company focusing on the Norwegian market to maintain and sell a software product with an international customer base just does not work. The software is still definitely commercially viable, but in its present form it does not fit with Bouvet’s business model.

    Bouvet is still committed to the software and will continue to use it in projects and sell support contracts on it, so commercial work based on the product is going to continue.

    (Note: I’m writing this in a personal capacity. This is not an official statement from Bouvet.)

  2. bbater says:

    Lars,

    I welcome your corrections and clarifications and am sorry if I gave the wrong impression at any point in my post.

    Regards,

    Bob

  3. No worries, Bob. I understood that you were just giving your honest opinion. Which is fair enough.

  4. Yes, this is good news 🙂

    I’m sorry, but I just have to nit-pick, though:

    “Topics Maps is an XML mark-up standard with more readily understandable semantics and far greater flexibility for describing the widest variety of knowledge structures than is RDF, as adopted by the Semantic Web developers.”

    Topic Maps is not an “XML mark-up standard” (it’s much more), but a topic map can be serialized and represented in XML using the XML Topic Maps (XTM) XML vocabulary. I’ve written more about this in my blog at http://www.topicobserver.com/blog/explaining-topic-maps/.

    The rest of the quote is quite true though 🙂

  5. I am developing a topic map-based knowledge management and repository application with Adobe Flex and Adobe AIR: http://www.quesucede.com/page/show/id/polishedcode. Flex allows the developer to build very rich desktop-like user interfaces. Specifically, the availability of powerful graph visualization libraries that allow you to visually layout the relationships between topics contribute to making the whole topic map experience very intuitive and appealing.

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